26th Annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & ULTRA Announced


Cycling enthusiasts, gear up for the 26th annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & ULTRA. In May, JSU's Pete Mathews Coliseum will be the starting and ending points of the rugged, 100-mile biking event.

For the second year in a row, the event is the nation’s only qualifier for the Union Cycliste International’s Gran Fondo World Championship to be held in Italy in August 2018. Cyclists from all over the world will compete for the qualification to attend the world championship.

Presented by the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA) and hosted by JSU and the City of Jacksonville, the Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century is set for Sunday, May 20, at 7:30 a.m.

But what the heck is a Gran Fondo? Basically, it’s a huge party after a grueling bike ride. There are three essentials for a good fondo – great ride, great timing, great food and beverages.

In 2017, NEABA hosted riders from 26 states and nine countries, who came to compete in the “Toughest Ride in the South.” As if the original century course was not challenging enough, three years ago the ride organizers added an ULTRA to the event, 124 miles/200K. The ULTRA encompasses all the major climbs in the area totaling more than 12,835 feet of climbing. The Challenge offers distance options of 24, 44, 62, 84, and 100 miles, plus the ULTRA, with 11 options for Rest Stops on the courses. The Challenge is part of the Alabama Backroads Century Series, and only the century (100-mile) distance is the UCI qualifier.

The 84 and 100-mile options offer a KOM/QOM section – 3-Mile Climb to Bunker Tower, Cheaha State Park. The ULTRA offers two KOM/QOM sections – in addition to the 3-Mile Climb KOM/QOM, there is also a KOM/QOM up to Chimney Peak. Awards are available for all KOM/QOM sections, as well as for the 1st/2nd/3rd Place Overall Winners (Male/Female) for both the Cheaha Challenge century distance and the ULTRA. Overall and Age Group winners of the century distance will be awarded UCI medals, and 1st place winners will receive UCI jerseys.

If riders are not quite up for the challenge of the Challenge, they can opt to do the Chief Ladiga Cruise family ride, a kinder, gentler ride on the paved rails-to-trail, Chief Ladiga Trail. The Cruise starts at 8 a.m. and has distance options of 12, 25 and 50 miles.

Proceeds from the 26th annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & ULTRA benefit Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail, Chief Ladiga Trail and Black Creek Trails Area High School Mountain Bike Teams.

For more information or to register, visit www.cheahachallenge.com.